Ohio House Races: 2014

As Obama was winning the state in 2012, Ohio sent 12 Republicans to Congress and only 4 Democrats.  Having been in charge of the redistricting process, Republicans squeezed the most liberal parts of the state into long and winding districts from Toledo to Cleveland (Kaptur), Cleveland to Akron (Fudge), and Akron to Youngstown (Tim Ryan), and then gave the Democrats the inner parts of Columbus (Beatty).  Each of these Democrats won with 70-80%  of the vote.  Republicans made up the rest, most of whom won with about 55-65% of the vote.

Republicans do not seem to have any primary opponents with the exception of John Boehner.  If there was only one challenger, this district might be worth a good look.  Democrats might give this district a good fight, but this is an extremely conservative part of the rural southwest.  In the primary this May, however, there will be THREE challengers to Boehner which will guarantee a Boehner victory.  Ohio needs to change to a runoff system like Texas to eliminate spoiler candidates and force the leader to take on a challenger one-on-one.  As it is, Boehner simply needs to win a plurality which he is certain to do.

The Democrats may have an interesting primary with a young Isaac Quinones II taking on the long-serving Kaptur.  Kaptur’s district stretches far away from her base in Toledo, and Democrats in Lorain and Cuyahoga counties may choose the young gun over the dean of the Ohio delegation.

Looking towards November’s general election, Renacci and Gibbs, who otherwise may have been moderately vulnerable, do not currently have Democrat challengers.  The two seats most likely to flip to the Democrats seem to be those of David Joyce and Bill Johnson, both in northeast Ohio.  Joyce had taken over the seat of Steve LaTourette, a GOP moderate if ever there was one.  Joyce has not done anything of note in his first term, and the Democrats are hoping to make this a competitive race.

Bill Johnson represents the eastern Ohio river region which have historically been the most purple counties in Ohio.  If Democrats could swing these counties, then they would likely win a statewide race.  This wasn’t true in 2008 and 2012 though, as Obama’s margins in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton were so wide that he could afford to lose these voters to the Republican.  His challenger will be an experienced state representative so this might be a race to watch.

In the end though, I don’t foresee any change coming in this election.  These four northeast Ohio Republicans (Gibbs, Renacci, Joyce, and Johnson) have the seats that are most likely to flip if there is a strong Democrat surge in the next decade.

The Tea Party Flop

In the two months since my last post, the Tea Party faction of the Republican party rightfully decided to mount a primary challenge to John Kasich.  Ted Stevenot is a conservative grassroots leader and was willing to suffer the slings and arrows of a “hopeless” campaign against a “popular” sitting governor.  Well, maybe not.  (Kasich Catches a Break)

If given the choice between making a primary challenge versus voting a principled third-party, I would choose the primary 99 times out of 100.  Some Tea Party members (who weren’t enamored with the Republican party anyway) are willing to go third party instead of supporting John Kasich.  Former Republican Congressman Charlie Earl is running as a Libertarian and would likely take a few thousand votes away from Kasich, possibly allowing the Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald to win.  Instead I prefer a primary, and was excited about the potential Stevenot race.  He likely would have lost, but it would have forced Kasich to regularly address the concern of conservative voters.

Additionally, the elected GOP in Columbus acted unconstitutionally when they disallowed third parties to petition for the ballot.  (Libertarians Win Challenge).  So its back to Plan B for conservatives who will need to decide how they feel about their governor.  Kasich has risen in popularity with his support of Medicaid Expansion, but will this translate into votes?  Are Ted Strickland voters going to flip to Kasich?  How much abandonment can Kasich afford from those who voted for him in 2010?

I think by November, Kasich will win by maybe three points instead of two.  He will likely be asked about his national intentions for 2016, either as a candidate himself (he ran for President very briefly in 2000) or as a Vice-Presidential pick.  And if the Ohio Tea Party is smart, they’ll bring up Obamacare Expansion and how it was enacted without the approval of the legislature, and they’ll bring up the establishment mentality that tried to restrict choices on the ballot, then they’ll concede that Kasich is better than Fitzgerald, but then for 2016 they’ll point to Wisconsin and say “There is your Midwest Governor.”